By Rachel Abramowitz
In a person’s life, the longest time between Jewish rituals is the duration from bar/bat mitzvah to marriage. For Millenials today, that gap is only getting wider.
So what does Judaism look like for young professionals when there isn’t a ritual in sight to connect them? What does Jewish community look like outside the bounds of traditional rituals? As the engagement associate for Tribe 12, a non-profit that connects 20s/30s in Philadelphia to the Jewish community, it’s my job to “mind this gap” of the young professional experience. In this interim of milestones, I create programming that not only fosters community, but also connects 20s/30s with all the Jewish Philly happenings and opportunities.
I’ve met with an wide range of young professionals, whose lasts names will be omitted for privacy, looking for diverse programming, events and practices. For Shira, it was a LGBTQ+-friendly community to have Shabbat with. For Michael, it was resources to help run the alumni chapter of his Jewish fraternity. And for Lauren, it was a place to volunteer in sustainable agriculture. All of them have an interest in connecting with a Jewish community to support them through the transitions that come with being a young person, finding their way in a big city.
And it’s not just that engaged Jewish young professionals in Philly are choosing to stay connected, some are connecting to their Judaism for the first time ever. This programming is reaching people who hated Hebrew school and swore they would never do anything “Jewish” again. It’s creating Jewish community for children of interfaith families that never had a place where they felt seen or understood. It’s empowering entrepreneurs to turn to Jewish values to lead their company through difficult decisions. And all these people are forming a sense of connection and community to invite a new Jewish chapter in their lives: adulthood.
Tribe 12 alone offers myriad of different programs that speak to all different interests, including matchmaking, entrepreneurial fellowships, Giving Circles for budding philanthropists, city-wide happy hours and much, much more. But it’s not just us. The breadth of programming among all of the organizations that serve this specific group is creative, fun, engaging and growing every day: Repair the World provides service opportunities congruent with a multitude of Jewish values; NextGen, out of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, fosters philanthropy and fun among young professionals; Moishe House offers small grants for people to host a wide range of fun events all over the city; and Honeymoon Israel gives out a highly subsidized Israel trip to couples who are exploring their Judaism. And this is only a glimpse into all that there is to offer on Philly’s weekly calendar of events.
These organizations provide professional development and networking opportunities to connect individuals and provide opportunities for personal and professional growth. They explore ways to instill Jewish values from service to education into the work, lives and communities of Millennials.
One of the amazing things about the Philly Jewish young professional scene is that the organizations that create these communities are working together. The GAP coalition for Jewish Grad Students and Young Professionals brings together over 25 organizations that work with Jewish 20s/30s in Philly to collaborate, share resources, and provide professional development and networking skills. A collaborative calendar of all things for Jewish young professionals in the city not only exists but is thriving at gobejewish.com.
Young professionals and the organizations that serve them in Philly are trailblazing new ways to define what it means to be connected with Judaism. It’s pretty incredible to watch. It used to be that a young person needed to join a synagogue to engage with the Jewish community, but now more than ever Millennials are taking their Jewish values outside those four walls and into the places that connect with them. A Tribe 12 constituent created the Instagram hashtag#alternativeshabbat after a Tribe 12 bar crawl, where she realized shabbat and Jewish community can be found and formed in an array of places.
After graduating college, I felt lost. I didn’t know where to go to find friends or activities or community. The Judaism that used to be so important to me throughout Hebrew school, youth group and Hillel seemed to be a distant memory. I was lucky that I stumbled upon Tribe 12, which taught me that Jewish community in your 20s in Philly is a place for individuals and community to grow, thrive, connect and break new ground.
That gap between my Jewish rituals has now become a force to incorporate my Judaism into every facet of my life. The Jewish young professional scene in Philly has made that possible. To me, Philly exemplifies the amazingly bright future of Judaism. A future filled with passionate people leading the way to bring Jewish values and community beyond ritual and into the forefront of the dynamic urban life.
Rachel Abramowitz is Tribe 12’s engagement associate, where she contributes to the Philly Jewish young professional scene by hosting social events, leadership events, and one-on-one meetings with those who are new to the community.